Government slammed for making the North ‘pay the price’ as parts of HS2 are delayed by two years

The rail project is said to have been hit by "soaring costs".

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 10th March 2023

The UK government has been slammed by opposition and local leaders in the north after announcing that parts of HS2 construction will be delayed by two years.

The Department for Transport (DFT) revealed yesterday that due to the rail project, once again, coming up against “soaring costs”, the construction of a number of HS2 sections are to be pushed back by another two years.

The delay will affect the north west section of HS2, from Birmingham to Crewe, and then from Crewe to us here in Manchester.

“We have seen significant inflationary pressure and increased project costs,” Transport Secretary Mark Harper said yesterday, “and so we will rephase construction by two years, with an aim to deliver high-speed services to Crewe and the North West as soon as possible after accounting for the delay in construction.”

HS2, which has the full name High Speed 2, was originally intended to connect London with Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds.

The UK government has announced that parts of HS2 construction will be delayed by two years / Credit: HS2

The leg to Leeds has since been scrapped in November 2021, but work on the first phase of the project between London and Birmingham is now well under way, with a part of the line due to open by 2033, despite the fact the project has faced delays and mounting concerns over the exact route, and its potential environmental impact.

While a budget of £55.7 billion for the whole of HS2 was set in 2015, this was made before the Leeds leg was cancelled, and the estimated cost of HS2 was therefore set between £72 billion and £98 billion at 2019 prices.


A report published last October found it was unlikely that the £40.3 billion target for the first section of the line would be met.

A senior figure at the DfT warned back in January that ”tough decisions” would lie ahead for the scheme.

And now, the government has confirmed it will be “prioritising HS2’s initial services” between Old Oak Common in west London and Birmingham Curzon Street in order to save money – which means the completion window for the first part of the scheme has now shifted from 2032 to 2036, while services will not extend to Manchester until the 2040s.

The rail project is said to have been hit by “soaring costs” / Credit: HS2

Local leaders have previously said that the wrong HS2 solution for Greater Manchester could “damage” and have a wider impact on the north, an now the announcement of the two-year delays has seen the government be hit with even more backlash from opposition parties, and local authority figures across the North West.

Labour said the latest delay meant the North having to “pay the price” for government failures.

“Tens of thousands of jobs, and billions in economic growth are dependent on this project,” Shadow Transport Secretary, Louise Haigh, stated.

“The North is yet again being asked to pay the price for staggering Conservative failure. Conservative chaos and chronic indecision is holding back jobs, growth and costing the taxpayer. This is the biggest project in Europe and delays pile costs up in the long run.

“Ministers now need to come clean on precisely how much their indecision will cost taxpayers and the North.”


Also responding to the “disappointing” delays annoucement, Lord McLoughlin, Chair of Transport for the North, said: “I was reassured by the Transport Secretary that we are still getting HS2 to Manchester, however, it needs to be understood whether or not these cost savings can be realised while still achieving the same desired outcome and conditional outputs.

“The government needs to avoid being penny wise and pound foolish, as delays don’t necessarily lead to savings, and in fact can drive costs upwards.”

He added that HS2 must be delivered in full in order to “transform the North”, adding that the rail project, together with the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) project, can “unlock the North’s economy from the existing position of poor infrastructure that has held it back.”

Read more:

“It is the communities and businesses across the North of England who are suffering most by any delay or inaction in delivering the scheme,” he concluded.

Featured Image – HS2